Longboat leaders tell us what they'd like to see in the next decade.
At the beginning of a new decade (humor us, here, OK?), what changes might be coming to Longboat Key in the next 10 years? We invited officials and members of the community to share their informal visions.
Suzy Brenner, Executive Director of the Paradise Center
My answer is surely biased…in 2030 I would like to see Longboat Key have a thriving town center which includes social activities, medical services and educational offerings to ensure that LBK residents and visitors have everything they want and need right here, without having to cross a bridge. It may not sound exciting, but it’s crucial that we all have a way to stay active, both mentally and physically, and connected to the people in our community.
Mike Haycock, Town Commissioner
First let’s examine why we love Longboat Key today. We live on a beautiful, safe Island with wonderful beaches and parks. We have
convenient shopping and restaurants. We have a wonderful country club and town facilities that provide convenient recreation facilities.
We will be improving the looks and resiliency of our roads and beaches with our underground utility projects and recommended beach
renourishment plans. We have a strong planning and zoning process that will protect the look and feel of our island into the future.
So, what would I like to see improved in ten years? Less traffic, a developed Colony property, a fully realized Town Center (outdoor and indoor facilities), an affordable, sustainable beach renourishment plan and robust sea level rise resiliency plan. I believe with the teamwork of our elected commissioners, our town staff and active community involvement we can make all of these a reality by 2030.
Susan Goldfarb, Executive Director of the Longboat Key Education Center
My vision for Longboat Key in the next decade is to preserve the natural beauty of the key by maintaining the balance of commercial and residential development and to strive to limit overgrowth of either one. I would hope that our commissioners would make this
their priority in years to come. I have been in this area and worked on the Key at my school for 34 years. The most dramatic change is traffic flow. It has become very frustrating to get on and off the Key in season. I believe we need a bridge at Cortez that is fixed and I would like to see that happen by 2030. We need our paradise to have easier access and departure. People fought for years to prevent the Ringling Bridge from becoming a fixed bridge. Now that it is a fixed bridge, it is a beautiful landmark and a more functional bridge.
Chuck Whittall, CEO of Unicorp National Developments, Inc.
Inside the next 10 years (actually three), of course, we would like to see the St Regis hotel open and flourishing. With opening of the hotel that should bring prominence to Longboat Key to be recognized as the number one beach in America. We have a goal for this to happen. We also look forward to more restaurants opening and creating a more sophisticated dining experience. Longboat Key is a very special place and with the opening of this world-class resort it will even become more special and globally recognized as one of the best vacation spots in the world.
Rusty Chinnis, longtime resident and conservation advocate
Longboat Key’s first neighborhood, the Longbeach Village has been my home since 1983. I’ve been proud to live in a community that takes water quality and the health of the local environment seriously. Joan Durante Park, START (Solution. to Avoid Red Tide), The Sister Keys and Quick Point Nature Preserve are but a few concrete examples of Longboat’s citizen’s and leader’s commitment to that goal. I’ve seen first-hand the decrease in water quality, loss of habitat and the degradation of a vibrant fishery in my time here but to anglers and citizens who are just starting out this is the proverbial “new normal.” Longboat Key has shown a commitment to caring about what we’re leaving to our descendants and I look forward to working with and inspiring the Town and the citizens of Longboat Key to pay that commitment forward to 2030 and beyond.
David Lapovsky, member of the town's Planning and Zoning Board
"I really hope that in 10 years the island continues to offer the laid-back look and feel that brought many of us here. That having been said, I hope that older developments take full advantage of changes to the zoning code to update their properties while maintaining our low-density character in order to help attract a new generation of owners and visitors to our island. I'm hopeful that we will have a true town center to draw our community together, including restaurants/cafes and a multi-use space for performances, lectures, meetings, and the like. Also, perhaps in 10 years we'll see some type of water taxi from our island to The Bay and The Quay in Sarasota, making these new downtown projects more accessible to our residents and getting some traffic off Gulf of Mexico Drive."
Manfred Welfonder, principal of Longboat Key-based MW Development Group
"My vision for the town's outlook in 10 years is a reasonable balance between residential and commercial/tourism use which is currently at 86% residential properties and just 14% non-residential. The town has about 6,500 permanent residents and then explodes up to 25,000 residents during the four high-season-months as a kind of 100% occupancy. Why not aim for a year-round 50% residential-occupancy so that existing and necessary new commercial/tourism businesses will have better support, and vice versa. It's all about a good balance in life."
Sherry Dominick, town Commissioner-elect
I would like to see the undergrounding project successfully completed, the completion of the St. Regis on the site of the old Colony and closure brought to the redevelopment of the Longboat Key Club facilities. I would like to see the serenity, natural beauty and lush landscaping of Longboat Key preserved, while permitting some intelligent, thoughtful growth of the commercial tax base. It would be ideal if cell service were reliable on all parts of Longboat. I also think that more needs to be done to ensure the safety of pedestrians crossing Gulf of Mexico Drive. The current yellow caution sidewalks are simply not completely effective. I would like to see concrete steps taken in two areas: working with governmental, private and non-profit entities to ensure that our waterways remain as free as possible from red tide and harmful algae blooms and ensuring that we have a real plan in place to deal with the serious issue of sea level rise.
Ken Schneier, incumbent Town Commissioner
I don't anticipate Longboat Key will look very much different. In fact, I hope that's the case because it will mean that we've been able to keep the beaches preserved and, hopefully, in better shape than they are now. It will mean that we came up with solutions to some of the high-water problems in the Village and other parts of the north end. I do hope that we have a successful St. Regis. I hope we have a developed and successful town center, which I hope includes an arts, cultural and education facility with a good partner that's similar to what we had in the works, if not identical.
Ed Zunz, incumbent Town Commissioner
I would add a study of the possible improvement, relocation or elimination of some of the smaller commercial areas, particularly those that are struggling or have a negative impact on surrounding residential areas. David Green, the vice chair of the Planning & Zoning Commission, talked in an article recently about advocating for that commission to expand its scope beyond dealing with matters that come before it and proactively engage in planning studies and recommendations. I agree, and I'm am informed it would be within the board’s authority. I suggest such a study would be a good place to start.
BJ Bishop, chair of the planning board and Town Commissioner-elect
Probably not physically look much different than it does now. I would love for us to have improved cycling lanes. I would love for us to look at the possibility of golf cart access. Anything that gets automobiles off Gulf of Mexico Drive is a great thing. I would love for us to have more efficient and workable public transit right now. People cannot take advantage of it now. I would like the neighborhoods to continue thriving and being successful. Part of that, and we've been addressing some of those issues on Planning & Zoning for the last 15 years that I've served, is recognizing that we are an aging community, and we have to give people the tools and resources to be able to re-create and improve those aging buildings that they're in.